Regardless of your boat’s size and systems, routine inspections and maintenance can alert you to potential problems.

Changing engine oil, and checking fluid levels are the best way to keep your boat running smoothly. Even well maintained engines will show signs of age. Leaks from steering cables, drips from the last oil change, or fuel from leaky fittings can all find their way into the bilge.

While we have some down time, why not put it some good use.


  • Use a self-contained spill-proof oil extractor to remove fluids. Manual and electric pumps can be found at most marine retail supply stores.
  • Temporarily disable your bilge pump so that it does not cycle on in the case of a spill. Use an oil-only absorbent pad under the engine and in the bilge to absorb spills. Place a plastic bag around the filter before removing to catch drips.
  • Top off your fluids, wipe up any spills, and reconnect your bilge pump. Recycle your filter and used oil at a recycling location and dispose of used absorbent pads and rags properly.


Fuel can become contaminated or can separate and clog filters if it sits in a fuel tank for too long. Changing your fuel filter is especially important if you boat in an area that has recently switched to ethanol formulated gasoline. Ethanol has a tendency to clean out fuel systems, resulting in the need to change your fuel filter more frequently with the first few tanks of ethanol formulated fuel.

Changing spin-on or in-line primary fuel filters is relatively easy. However, changing some secondary filters (the one that tends to be mounted out of the way or internally in the engine) can be more difficult than your average fuel filter change and tends to be overlooked by many do-it-yourselfers. When in doubt, refer to your engine manual or let a professional handle it. Proper fuel flow and filtration is essential to smooth operation. Regardless of engine size, routine inspections can alert you to potential problems.